Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Jayne Miller, WBAL-TV 11
Baltimore City officials on Wednesday proposed a new budget that holds the line on city services, calls for no new taxes, but does include a small increase in the monthly 911 fee.
The $3.6 billion overall budget is slightly less than the plan for Fiscal Year 2021, though the general fund budget is 4.4% higher. It reflects the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the city’s revenues.
Property and income tax revenues are relatively flat, according to budget officials, and the city expects only modest recovery of revenue related to tourism.
“There aren’t a lot of changes in the proposal,” Finance Director Henry Raymond said. “We’re strapped for cash.”
The proposal would use $52 million of coronavirus relief act and Federal Emergency Management Agency aid to support the city’s continued response to COVID-19.
The proposed budget for the Baltimore Police Department in fiscal year 2022 is $555.5 million, which is $27.6 million, or 5%, higher than the BPD proposed budget for FY 2021.
Some details of the budget proposal include:
-The monthly 911 fee will rise by 25 cents per phone line to support improved technology as part of the Next Generation 911 effort.
-$360.3 million is dedicated to support for city schools.
-Public safety services are proposed to cost $1.05 billion, which includes police, fire and other programs.
-$10 million will used by the Baltimore City Health Department to continue to manage COVID-19 vaccination sites.
-$500,000 of remaining coronavirus relief act funding will go toward the purchase of additional personal protective equipment.
-Recycling cans will begin to be distributed to every city household.
-A one-time loan of $6.7 million will be provided to Visit Baltimore to jump start recovery for tourism-related revenues. It will be paid back over five years as hotel tax revenue recovers.
-State funding of $1 million for YouthWorks and $3.5 million for the local management board for the Children and Youth Fund.
-The Charm City Circulator will continue operating at current service levels with support of a Federal Transit Authority grant from the coronavirus relief act.
The city continues to rely on federal funds to manage ongoing pandemic related costs, including continuing to use the Lord Baltimore Hotel as an isolation center to help control the spread of the coronavirus.
Budget officials said revenues from parking garages and meters may be permanently reduced if commuters continue to use work-from-home options.
They also warn money may have to be taken from other services to pay the debt on the downtown Hilton Hotel, which has been closed due to the pandemic.